I lived here from ’93-95, and have stopped here a dozen times since. I personally witnessed 3 road related deaths during the time that I called Singapore home, including the death of one cyclist: hardly surprising given the volumes of traffic, some of the foolhardy things people do cutting corners, and the absence of provisions for cycling in this country that is more concerned with being “modern”, that asking what “modern” might mean. Over estimating the degree to which law and order can protect them from accidents, and believing their fellow countrymen have uncanny skills to match their uncanny calm, most Singaporeans would be very to surprised to learn their roads are perhaps 3 times more dangerous than those of the EU, as this clever boffin has reckoned—considering the EU incorporates Naples, that’s not very good!
The poor have always cycled in Singapore, in a way that should make it clear to even their mothers that their lives are worth nothing. Not wishing to differ with poor peoples’ mums, I’ll focus here upon wealthy cyclists. A growing number of young professionals are bicycle commuting on Singapore’s roads, inspired no doubt by the cycling boom they are witnessing all over the world, and assured by their government that everything in Singapore is as safe as Sentosa. The government owned media here has a neat way of giving the impression that road accidents only kill dumb-ass immigrant workers, who bring it on themselves by being so dumb. And after any such story, the media cuts to an even worse story, from Malaysia, to remind Singaporeans they are being better looked after by Mr. Lee. Being married to someone who used to work in Singapore General Hospital, and having heard a few shockers, I’m not buying the media line.
So what do Singapore’s bike messengers do? After all, these are the guys whose livelihoods depend on them criss-crossing the city with speed, and not getting hurt. Talking to Jamal Wagiman from greenmessengers today, I heard a common story about trepidation and avoidance of cars, that all too often pass bikes within inches. But because he knows the city so well, Jamal uses more non-vehicular shortcuts, especially the parks and the waterfronts. The fastest way usually isn’t the car’s way. (Jamal, I hope you don’t feel too compromised. When I sought your model release, I didn’t disclose that you would be appearing with my folding bike there beside you 😉
If I were moving to live here again, I would be mapping out the parkways and waterways. They are shadier, less polluted, and safe. Orient your life around them, and you will see fewer red lights, and live your life to your timetable.